Vancouver football club signs S. Korean star Lee Young-Pyo   2011-12-08 20:25:52            

By Al Campbell

VANCOUVER, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- The Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced the signing of South Korean international Lee Young-Pyo on Wednesday.

The move will significantly bolster the defense of the team which this year finished tied for last during their inaugural Major League Soccer season.

Terms of the deal for the 34-year-old defender, who has played in three World Cups and 127 national team appearances, were not disclosed under MLS policy.

Lee, who has been with Saudi Arabian club side Al-Hilal for the past two seasons following six years in Europe with PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham Hotspur FC and Borussia Dortmund, told a packed press conference through an interpreter that he had received "up to six or seven" contract offers over the past five months.

"They were top teams from various countries and leagues. But not just considering football, but considering my life as a whole, for my family and also the football side things here, it's great to learn new cultures and be part of a new environment and atmosphere," said Lee.

"It wasn't too difficult to decide on Vancouver," he added.

Despite posting the third best attendance in MLS this past season, the 'Caps struggled on the pitch, failing to win a road game and finishing with a record of six wins and 10 draws in 34 games.

With his vast experience internationally and at the club level, Lee said he saw himself in a role of helping to develop the younger players, China's Tan Long among them, and improving the team overall.

"With the Whitecaps being such a young club in the MLS, the start of next season, obviously, the pressure won't be that high on the club because it's a young club and there's only one way, and that's to go up from here for the club.

"I want to be part of that, experience that, helping that drive, just go on that ride," he said.

In the MLS, Lee will largely have to play on artificial turf after playing on natural grass for most his career.

"It's not easy, but I just try to adapt to the conditions and try to do my best," he said.

Martin Rennie, the Whitecaps new head coach, said he sees Lee playing right back for the club, adding he appreciated the versatility the Hongcheon-gun native who has also played at midfield and at fullback during his storied career.

"With the players we have we believe that we've added a really strong piece there, not only defensively but we want to be able to build out from the back and attack and he can do that. He can also put in great crosses and get past people in the final third. So on the field we think we've really added an important piece."

Lee, who comes to Vancouver on a free transfer, was reported to be earning one million euros (1.34 million U.S. dollars) last season with Al-Hilal.

As a non-designated player with the 'Caps, Vancouver's Province newspaper is reporting he will likely "command around 300,000 dollars in base salary" for the upcoming season.

Lee said regardless of the league being strong or weak, for him it was still a new experience and something he could learn from.

"The perception of football, soccer in North America, it's not a strong sport. That's what people think of it from the outside. But every time the national team when they played against the U.S.A. There's been some difficult games where they drew.

"It was always a question for them, for the players on the national team, why they're so strong when it's not the major sport in North America," he said.

"But coming here and just experiencing the atmosphere and looking at the facilities, I now know why it's so strong.

"I can see the rate of development, it's so quick, and in the next five or 10 years it will keep expanding and hopefully keep increasing in popularity. I'm sure that it's going to be a major sport in the future," he said.

Editor: Bi Mingxin
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